The President's Preface 2001

By W.M. Roger Louis

As many members already know, and as readers of this annual report will reaffirm, the AHA continued steadfastly to discharge its responsibilities to members and to the profession during the unhappy events of 2001. These included the loss of several staff members of the Fiduciary Trust Company in New York City-managers of our investments-whose offices were located in the World Trade Center. In Washington, D.C., the Association continued to provide services to members with customary efficiency in the face of disruptions caused by anthrax threats, and was also able to hold a steady financial course despite swings on the stock market. The annual meetings in Boston and San Francisco, which mark the beginning and end of the year under review, had excellent programs and were well attended. The attendance at San Francisco was remarkable because the airline disruptions after September 11 affected travel plans of many members. The credit for the AHA's efficiency in these difficult times belongs mainly to the headquarters staff guided by Arnita Jones, the executive director. But our general success during the past year can also be attributed to the countless hours of voluntary labor given by many members who serve on AHA committees. As president during the year 2001, I hope I may be allowed to bask in the glow of the many accomplishments of the AHA even as I acknowledge that much, as always, remains to be done.

When I assumed the presidency of the Association in January 2001, I aimed not only to keep the ship steady but also to leave my mark as an innovative president. One reform was the introduction of "presidential sessions" at the annual meeting, which will provide an opportunity to bring prominent and distinguished historians back on to the program. Another was to revive the idea-first proposed nearly a hundred years ago by the indomitable J. Franklin Jameson-of a National History Center. I hope that this plan-encouraged by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation and facilitated by the appointment of a development officer-will soon be realized as a vibrant institution fostering lively, collegial interaction among historians from the United States and abroad. Steering a stable course meant sustaining the initiatives of my two immediate predecessors, Robert Darnton (1999) and Eric Foner (2000). Darnton's major initiative was the Gutenberg-e project, while Foner's was inquiring into how best to attack the intractable problem of adjunct and part-time employment. I am happy to note that the Gutenberg-e project received an additional grant of $980,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to continue the Gutenberg-e prizes for electronic publication of historical monographs for another three years. On Eric Foner's initiative, a permanent joint committee under the auspices of the Organization of American Historians and the AHA is making a systematic effort to improve salaries and working conditions for part-time and adjunct teachers of history.

The AHA has always been concerned with teachers and the teaching of history at all levels. The Teaching Division, of which William Weber became vice president in 2001, focused its attention during the year on two key activities: supporting the project initiated by Senator Robert Byrd for teaching American history, and helping the profession to better understand the processes for accreditation of teacher preparation programs.

The Research Division oversees the Association’s prizes, the annual meeting program, and publications. While performing these tasks under the vigilant guidance of its vice president, Gabrielle Spiegel, the division was particularly engaged with the complexities of electronic publishing, an increasingly important mode of communicating historical scholarship. Another concern of the AHA has been the plight of the historian who lacks affiliation to an academic institution and is thus denied many facilities. The Research Division has urged the AHA to join the Modern Language Association and Organization of American Historians in signing a resolution encouraging all research libraries to provide greater accessibility for independent scholars.

The Professional Division has the responsibility for collecting and disseminating information about employment opportunities, for helping to ensure equal opportunities for all historians, and for maintaining professional standards. Under the able leadership of Barbara Metcalf, the division reexamined the complaints process and the intricate challenges of hiring practices.

The AHA is a diverse and complex organization, and it reflects a great variety of aims that are sometimes conflicting and not easy for the divisions to bring into alignment. In my own view, it is only the virtue of tolerance that holds us together as an association. Nothing is more vital than that the AHA remain representative, and tolerant of its members' beliefs and approaches to history. This pluralism is evident in the AHR-in my judgment, the best general historical journal in the world-as well as in the annual meeting program. Both the AHR and the annual meeting well reflect the Association's principles and practices. Annual reports can sometimes be overly self-congratulatory but in this case I believe the tone is justified. This annual report for the year 2001 provides an accurate account of a thriving Association.